Bristol-Myers Squibb has signed a deal with Isis Pharmaceuticals to develop antisense drugs to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease which could be worth up to $192 million.

Under the terms of the pact, B-MS is getting exclusive access to Isis' research programme on targeting proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9), which helps regulate the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream. Studies on mice have shown that Isis’ compounds reduce PCSK9 which leads to decreasing low-density lipoprotein ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood.

Cash-wise, Isis will receive a $15-million upfront payment plus at least $9 million in research funding over three years. It will also receive also receive up to $168 million for achieving development and regulatory milestones for the first drug in the collaboration, as well as additional payments for follow-on compounds. B-MS will also pay royalties on products resulting from the collaboration.

Explaining the rationale behind the deal, Francis Cuss, senior vice president, discovery and exploratory clinical research at B-MS said "there is a clear need for new treatment options for many patients at high risk for cardiovascular disease due to high LDL-cholesterol levels." He added that PCSK9 is “an attractive, genetically validated target in the field of cardiovascular disease, and Isis' antisense technology offers us a strong therapeutic platform” for potentially bringing new medicines rapidly to market.

The Isis collaboration is the latest in a number of pacts that B-MS has entered into recently. Last month it announced a deal potentially worth $1 billion with fellow New York-based drug major Pfizer to develop and commercialise a promising late-stage anticoagulant, apixaban, and a diabetes alliance with AstraZeneca was signed at the beginning of 2007 which could boost B-MS’ coffers by $1.35 billion.